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MAYBE, JUST MAYBE: "GO" TIME

Greg Marella is a champion.

This week, wonder of wonders, miracle of miracles, Lewis Capaldi’s second consecutive ballad, “Before You Go,” has scored the #1 position on the Mediabase Top 40 chart.

The follow-up to the Capitol breakout’s monster #1 “Someone You Loved,” “Before You Go” replaces a giant uptempo smash by Harry Styles, and—for now, anyway—stands in the way of  Jawsh 685’s fast charging uptempo smash, “Savage Love,” and a bevy of other tempo-driven smashes and contenders to come.

The hardest thing for a promotion exec to do is work an anti-format hit record in a system that is more challenging than ever to navigate. Programming  executives have pre-existing opinions that minimize the chances for a format-defying song to achieve ultimate radio exposure. Analytics-driven consultants exert further pressure, telling PDs not to play these records.

Greg Marella, seen here with Lewis Capaldi and fellow Capitol star Niall Horan, is understandably rather pleased.

Programmers continue to battle tooth and nail against downtempo songs, even though they often become the biggest hits of all. “They ruin the flow of the station,” is the frequent refrain. “They’re too sad.” So it was astounding to watch a new artist from the U.K. storm the U.S. charts and go the distance with the downtempo and heartbroken—but downright beautiful and compelling—“Someone You Loved.” Greg and the entire Tower team deserve enormous credit for believing in Lewis and putting in the time and effort to deliver bigtime on all levels. We all watched them tilt at windmills, convincing gatekeepers everywhere that a ballad deserved to go all the way to the top.

Achieving this once, particularly with a new act, was mightily impressive. But two straight downtempo songs in a row by a new artist going to #1 is a unicorn. It was Greg’s unwavering conviction that made it possible. He believed it all along, and he made his promotion team—and the rest of us—believe it. He took on the most difficult promotion challenge of the year, and he succeeded.

I was lucky enough to be included on an email chain of Greg’s peers congratulating him on a job well done. And I’m happy to have the chance to shout it from the rooftops. 

Steve Barnett reimagined his promotion team when he assumed the Chairmanship at the Tower. He wanted Greg Marella’s energy and talent, so much so that he was willing to wait more than half a year for him to honor his commitment to Kemosabe Records. Even if that meant having an interim staff handle his promotion department until Greg was available. Steve’s belief has paid off time and time again.

There was a time when radio was king. And while radio is no longer the tip of the spear as it once was, it is still the best way to expose an artist and a song to a mass-appeal audience that can increase that artist’s chances of becoming a star. Thousands upon thousands of spins a week is the best free advertising a song can have. Artists and executives everywhere want to have a big old hit song that includes radio airplay.

The barriers for an anti-format song in this environment remain higher than ever. The promo players who can vault over those barriers are true champions.

I would add that at this moment, with all the challenges of pandemic conditions, major-label promo departments are more focused and effective than we’ve seen in quite some time. They’re ready, willing and able to tilt at those windmills.

Don’t let anyone tell you differently.

 

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